Ciara Riordan has extensive experience in broadcasting, working in both the UK and Ireland in Producer, Reporter and Presenter roles throughout the last decade. She is currently a Social Media Producer and Broadcast Journalist at BBC Breakfast.
You graduated from the Institute of Technology Tallaght in 2004 with a BA in Audio-Visual Communications, before taking on the role of Radio Producer at NewsTalk 106-108 in Dublin. What was it like transitioning from being a student to taking the first steps in building your career?
Ciara: Transitioning was relatively easy as I started work experience in Newstalk Radio in my final year of my degree. It just meant I was putting what I had learned in university into practice sooner and because of this head-start, I was lucky enough to have a full-time job in that station as soon as I left my course!
You spent some of 2009 in Australia working as a Broadcast Journalist at ABC NewsRadio. Back in Dublin, you worked as the Volunteer Manager for the cause of the 2010 Haiti Earthquake and as a Journalist on the Daily Show on RTE. What did you learn during those years?
Ciara: Wow, how long have you got?! I learned so much. 2008 - 2011 was a bit crazy but probably my most formative years!
I took a year out to go travelling as I had been working in Newstalk for 5 years. My trip was an education in itself. I travelled through South America, New Zealand and Australia. I thought I would take a complete break from journalism but when I arrived in Sydney, I couldn't help myself and I got back into radio again! The people at ABC Newsradio were fantastic, I was the only Irish person in their newsroom at that time but they made me feel very welcome. When I returned to Ireland, I was looking for something else, something different, so when the earthquake happened in Haiti, I was asked to become the manager of the volunteering programme for an Irish NGO "Haven". The aim was to educate volunteers about Haiti and then take 300 - 600 volunteers to Haiti to help build houses for some of the poorest people in the Southern Hemisphere. My role was very different to my previous one but I could transfer a lot of my skills. I had to make presentations to large numbers of people, I helped with the project management of the trip, I wrote their child protection policy and I even chartered huge passenger planes to take our volunteers to Haiti! After two emotional but successful trips to Port Au Prince and Gonaives, I was lured back into media but this time it was television. Working on the Daily Show in RTE (Ireland's public service broadcaster) was really interesting as I got to work on the main news stories of the day and I also got to do some of my own investigate stories such as confidential surveys with groups like taxi drivers.
You are currently the Social Media Producer and Broadcast Journalist with BBC Breakfast - a service reaching over 7 million people every day. What does your typical day look like, and is there anything in your current job that you do differently than in the past?
Ciara: My typical work day starts at 5am (yes it's early!) and the minute I get in I prepare everything I need for our social media platforms. BBC Breakfast starts at 6am so our social media posting starts at 6am too! I update Facebook, Instagram and I live tweet while we are on air until 09:15. I cover what's on the programme but also post up the highlights and any interesting stories that we've featured on the show that might go viral. At 10am, I go to the daily meeting so I know what will be on the next day's programme and can plan ahead. After this meeting, I get to work on our special projects.
I have a very supportive managerial team and recently my deputy editor Kelly and I produced a 360 degrees video of a behind the scenes look at the BBC Breakfast studio. You should have a look! It's really cool and informative but also fun. You can see the cameras, autocue and the technical crew which viewers don't normally get to see.
In terms of it being different to past jobs, before this role, I was producing and presenting a daily social media segment on BBC World News called the "Worlds Newsroom." I focused on what stories people were talking about on social media and delving into this, showing their tweets and comments and interviewing people about it. In my current role, it is the opposite. I focus more on the content we have on the programme such as the reports, our guests and celebrities we have and work out the best way to utilise them. My aim is to create added value content for our followers through top tip videos, explainers and live Q&A sessions. I'm always thinking of what can we do next that is new, interesting and entertaining!
Working with Social Media, in what ways do you think media students, graduates and jobseekers can perhaps utilise online platforms in order to make themselves more appealing to potential employers?
Ciara: Firstly, having a social media presence is key. You should see yourself as a brand. Twitter is public so you need to make sure you have a good biog, website link (if you have one) and follow some interesting people, particularly in the areas of news, politics, sport, tech and culture. Your tweets need to show that you're aware and interested of the latest news. LinkedIn is where a lot of potential employers are lurking, so having a profile on this is a good move. You can make connections which might lead you to a job down the line. Facebook (Newswire), Twitter (Moments) and Snapchat (Discover) all have new news sections now so it's just being mindful that they exist and observing how certain stories are told as this can be useful in an interview situation. It sounds obvious but your photo on all your online platforms should be presentable and when a recruiter searches for you on Google they should not be shocked at what they see!
Thinking back to your University days between 2000 and 2004, what advice would you give to your younger, student self, or to anyone else looking to build a career in Broadcasting?
Ciara: You need to be prepared to work really hard and work long hours but the pay-off is that you do a job you love and are passionate about. At the beginning, you may even have to work for free as part of work experience but that is okay as the experience you gain outweighs everything. It is a fantastic career where you get to meet amazing people, you learn something new every day (I promise you that!) and with some jobs you get to travel to interesting places to cover stories (I was sent to the Papal's conclave in Rome for the appointment of the new Pope, Pope Francis, in March 2013 which was an unforgettable experience). My last piece of advice... bear in mind that permanent jobs don't come around often and six month contracts are something you'll get use to over time!
You can follow Ciara on Twitter: @ciarariordan